Greetings. We're David and Paul, a married couple from Boston with a passion for individuality and community. Paul's a corporate refugee, David a serial entrepreneur. We created "Ask What Matters?! to eradicate needless suffering in the world. Sound a little lofty and Pollyanna-ish? We get it, and we may have thought so too a few years ago, but then we started to notice some things in our lives and the lives of people close to us.
So, what do we mean by needless suffering? We know there are national and global issues such as poverty, human trafficking, homelessness, and that these issues need to be addressed. However, there is also a great deal of suffering that is internally generated or that you inadvertently allow into your life by the choices you make. Suffering that CAN be avoided.
We witnessed this first hand when a good friend suffered a nervous breakdown brought on by unhappiness in his work and the fear of not having enough money. By most objective measures, he had savings that would have provided a healthy cushion for any changes in employment. However, fears of scarcity left him paralyzed. A second friend, having been unemployed for a year, suffered a great deal of depression and anxiety. After a long job search he landed a new position that very quickly didn’t work out. The following week, he attempted suicide. Amazingly, this same friend had beat stage 3 cancer just a few years earlier.
In the wake of these events, on a cool September night, we sat on our living room sofa dumbfounded. How could our friends' lives have become so desperate? Then we realized that Paul, too, had not been immune to this type of suffering. Although he’d had what would be considered to be a very successful career, he had been plagued with a series of severe burnouts. The jobs were challenging and though he was more than capable of doing them, he drove himself nuts with zero tolerance for failure and a need for perfection. Irrational, yes, but it was very real for him just as our friends’ anxieties were real for them.
As we thought about it more we observed that a lot of what Paul and our two friends were driven by was hyper inflated fear from internal and external drivers. In prehistoric times, when one was faced with a saber-toothed tiger, it was a matter of life or death. In the 21st century, the saber-toothed tiger has become worries of scarcity, status, shame, and embarrassment. Uncomfortable, yes? Life threatening, no.
With a new perspective we started to notice a whole lot of needless suffering out there. Everything from negative body image, road rage, performance pressure on our kids, bullying, to the constant questioning of and am I measuring up? The level of pain we saw was not ok with us and we wanted to figure out a way to put this to an end.
So, we began regularly asking ourselves what matters. Then we started asking friends…family members…strangers in restaurants. Amazingly, what we found is that the very simple act of discussing the question without judging the responses was itself the beginning of an antidote to needless suffering. Through these conversations, the question, “what matters?”, then became a call to action (!). Your “what?,” does, in fact, “matter!” Dare to choose it!
We began to envision what life would be like if the Ask What Matters?! dialogue became part of our global culture. What if families made it part of their dinner time ritual; managers added it to their monthly agendas; teachers led these dialogues with their students?
In an effort to realize our vision, we reached out to some super talented friends of ours in the fields of neuroscience, psychology, education and marketing. The result? The creation of Ask What Matters?!, simple framework for living, easily incorporated into your daily routine, designed to help you gain clarity, reduce stress and make life-affirming choices. In support of the framework we’ve developed a set of highly practical self-guided tools and vetted a collection of resources available on this site. Like to read? We invite you to purchase a copy of our book, Ask What Matters?! A Practical Approach to Your Total Well-Being. For those wishing to delve deeper into Ask What Matters?!, we offer well-being workshops and coaching for individuals, teams and organizations.
So there you have it. The story of Ask What Matters?! What started nine months earlier as a conversation on our living room couch about tragic events in our friends' lives, has brought us here. We're not quite sure where this will all lead. However, we hope that after reading this that you will be motivated to join us to help eradicate needless suffering by at least stopping and asking yourself and others – What Matters?!